President's Letter, Spring-Summer, 2017

It’s summer on the Gaviota Coast. The green hills that sprouted during our much-needed winter rains have turned to gold and brown. The seal pups grew up and have moved on. And the Gaviota Coast Conservancy has been busier than ever on a variety of issues.

Our most current concern out on the Coast is the evolving situation at the Tajiquas Landfill. Marc Chytilo and his legal colleagues have helped GCC identify critical defects in Santa Barbara County’s plan to anaerobically digest organic waste at the landfill and spread the contaminated residual organic “digestate” on local farm land. While approved, the project is in a state of limbo due to the County’s error in siting a portion of the project within the coastal zone where such industrial activities are not appropriate. It is

Mike_Brown-Santa_Cruz_Island-Jan_14-headshot.jpgour view that it is long past the time to close the landfill at Tajiguas, as such an industrial activity is inappropriate for the Gaviota Coast and it is certainly not good policy to develop additional industrial activities such as the anaerobic digestion process. We are committed to working with others to create a 21st-century approach to managing waste in the Santa Barbara region that is on the cutting edge of sustainability practice, and to work to restore Tajiguas to a positive role in the coastal ecosystem.

Many of you may have seen Shaw Leonard’s movie Gaviota: The End of Southern California when it was shown at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and more recently at the Sandbox. The movie is a terrific exploration of the natural history of the Gaviota Coast. If you haven’t seen it or you want to see it again, more showings are coming up. In most cases, we are showing the film in conjunction with the movie Losing Ground: Gaviota, a UCSB Blue Horizons student film featuring GCC Board member Guner Tautrim and his efforts to promote more sustainable agriculture practices on his family’s Gaviota Coast ranch and to encourage his neighbors’ efforts.

We're excited about our new membership program, and invite you to join (if you haven't already). Thanks for participating with us! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and invitations. 

We offer occasional guided hikes onto the Naples property and select other sites on the Gaviota Coast. Sign up to be on the Hikes Email List and we’ll let you know about the next opportunities to explore a part of the nearby Gaviota Coast up close.



Mike Brown

President, Gaviota Coast Conservancy

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Generous SeaVees Donation benefits Gaviota Coast Conservancy


Many thanks to Steven Tiller, Macy McGinness and the staff of SeaVees shoes of Santa Barbara for their significant and very generous annual 1% For The Planet donation to Gaviota Coast Conservancy. We are proud and honored to have them as a partner in the 1% For The Planet program. SeaVees has again shown their commitment to protecting the rural character and environmental integrity of the Gaviota Coast and the Central Coast region. We're deeply grateful to SeaVees for their continued support and look forward to a long and rewarding relationship, including hikes and fun like the gathering held recently with board members and SeaVees staff at Naples. You guys are the best!




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Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project "Dead in the Water"


Due to County Processing Error

(Santa Barbara, CA, April 24, 2017) Leaders at the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC) disclosed today that the County of Santa Barbara Solid Waste Division’s Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (TRRP) has been halted indefinitely, due to a major land use processing error committed by the County.

“The TRRP is dead in the water. That’s a good thing for ratepayers, the environment and the Gaviota Coast,” declared Ed Easton, the Chairman of Gaviota Coast Conservancy’s Land Use Committee. “The Conservancy supports the closure of Tajiguas Landfill as soon as possible.”

In 1999, the Board of Supervisors directed County staff to close Tajiguas Landfill by 2015. Rather than adopting aggressive source reduction and better recycling programs and closing the landfill, County staff sought approval for a high-tech $120M trash processing plant on the Gaviota Coast. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved the TRRP in July, 2016.

“At various times throughout this process, we asked whether specific elements of the Project were in the coastal zone and subject to permit, but the County just modified the project and we never got a complete answer. A trash processing plant is a bad idea anywhere on the Gaviota Coast. This is a biodiverse region of global significance, whose natural and cultural resources qualify it as suitable to be a National Seashore. It should not house a garbage dump at all, much less be the location for a massive new industrial trash processing facility,” explained GCC’s attorney, Marc Chytilo.

The Project proponents ignored the state-designated coastal zone boundary, relying instead on the County’s map, and discovered their error only after the EIR was complete, the project was approved, and the County was seeking $120M in public financing for the project.

“Gaviota Coast Conservancy has opposed trucking, processing, and dumping trash on the Gaviota Coast. It’s simply the wrong place for these industrial activities. We need to do better at reducing the amount of trash we generate, and to sort out valuable commodities, including organic waste. New State law requires communities to separate organic waste and prohibits dumping it in landfills. Organic food waste can easily be composted, using green waste to produce clean compost in large quantities that can help sequester carbon in soils and increase agricultural viability on the South Coast. The remaining trash residuals can be disposed in a new state-of-the-art landfill outside of Santa Maria, using the new electric trucks or highly efficient liquefied natural gas, like what is now being used in Ventura County. Tajiguas Landfill should be closed for good,” explained one of GCC’s founding Board members, Mike Lunsford.

The County asked the Coastal Commission to adjust the boundary, and was rejected when the Commission concluded that the County’s submittal “patently fails” to meet the legal requirements. The County has limited options, and as approved, the project is dead. 

Background on the Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project:

The Gaviota Coast is recognized as a recreational resource of statewide importance and has natural and cultural resources that make the Gaviota Coast suitable for National Seashore designation. It is a globally significant biodiversity hot spot, home to 1400 different species. Its visual features and landscapes are stunning, leading to Caltrans’ 2016 designation of Highway 101 through the Gaviota Coast as a California Scenic Highway. Only a small fraction of the Gaviota Coast’s lands are permanent protected, however, so action is needed to accomplish permanent protection as the forces of development and industrialization grow ever-stronger.

The TRRP is a $120M trash processing project that the County of Santa Barbara’s Solid Waste Division has proposed to site at the Tajiguas Landfill on the Gaviota Coast. Originally the project was to be privately financed by the Project operators, Mustang Investments, but Mustang later asked the County to finance the project. The total projected project cost, with financing, is Dedicated to protecting the rural character and environmental integrity of the Gaviota Coast for present and future generations $200M. The TRRP would consolidate trash processing activities to the Gaviota Coast.

Gaviota Coast Conservancy opposes the TRRP because it is a very expensive high tech solution that extends trash processing on the Gaviota Coast for decades when less expensive, simpler and more flexible alternatives exist. In 1999, the Board of Supervisors directed County staff to close the Tajiguas Landfill within 15 years, but staff instead sought to extend its life and perpetuate incompatible industrial activities on the Gaviota Coast.

The TRRP commits our community to increased trash rates (nearly 15% over next 2 years and 40% over next 10 years), and discourages the development of stand-alone, high quality composting facilities that are needed for local farms and to enable Carbon Farming, an important tool for sequestering carbon in the soil.

The TRRP would be unnecessary if:

  • the South Coast enhanced programs to more effectively “source-separate” waste;
  • compost were produced nearby (not in Santa Maria or Oxnard), to reduce the transport of organic wastes;
  • a more effective materials recovery facility were completed on the South Coast; and
  • the remaining residual is disposed at the new Las Flores Ranch Class III Landfill near Santa Maria using efficient, electric-powered or alternatively-fueled haul trucks.

The County staff was apparently unaware that the state coastal zone boundary differed from the boundary on County maps, and that the state boundary always controls. Significant parts of the TRRP are actually located inside the coastal zone. Prior approvals of the TRRP are now invalid. The County’s initial request to modify the coastal zone boundary was summarily rejected. The County now faces a daunting process to try to gain approval of the TRRP.


Action Summary on Tajiguas stating that Tajiguas should be closed within 15 years, from this date:

August 3, 1999







A C T I O N  S U M M A R Y




8) HEARING - Consider recommendations regarding Refuse Disposal Strategies for the South Coast, as follows: (99-21,298) (FROM JULY 13, 1999) (EST. TIME: 1 HR.)

a) Consider the long-term, intermediate and short-term refuse disposal strategies identified in the report;

b) Consider a 15-year Tajiguas Landfill expansion for purposes of environmental review;

c) Direct staff to develop another County Landfill site as a long-term disposal solution;

d) Remove CAC alternative (Compost, MRF, and transfer station) from CEQA project level consideration and terminate RFQ process for CAC proposal;

e) Direct staff to initiate independent process for development of a Material Recovery Facility (MRF)/Transfer Station as well as a Compost Facility;

f) Direct staff to proceed with all short-term options including a benchfill project and a minor fill project in the Coastal Zone at the Tajiguas Landfill site.




a) Conducted public hearing and considered the long-term, intermediate and short-term refuse disposal strategies.

b) Approved. Directed staff to modify the project description to reflect the goal that the Tajiguas Landfill be closed within 15 years or sooner.

c) Directed.

d) Approved.

e) Directed.

f) Directed.

Gray: No.

Letter from California Coastal Commission to SB County regarding the Coastal Zone boundary for Tajiguas:


Letter from SB County acknowledging the error:

February 2017 Memo from SB County:

Tajiguas Landfill Site Plan


Tajiguas Landfill Site Plan with TRRP and Anaerobic Digester


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